You’re moving to a place that’s right for you right now—a place that will give you the freedom to spend your time the way you want to without having to worry about maintaining space you don’t need. However, there’s one thing standing between you and your freedom: a house full of stuff.
If you’re a senior citizen, downsizing to a smaller home may seem daunting at first. With this guide, though, you’ll be able to sort your belongings and keep what matters most with ease. To downsize with minimal stress, you’ll need to:
- Plan ahead to avoid anxiety caused by deadlines.
- Sort your home slowly, taking it one room at a time.
- Set up a sorting station to help you keep everything in order.
- Preserve fragile belongings or memories, including photographs or home videos.
- Host an estate or garage sale to get rid of items that don’t bring you joy.
- Don’t take things personally if your family doesn’t have use for certain things.
- Consider self storage to help keep your items protected for years to come.
A Senior’s Guide to Downsizing
This is isn’t always possible, but the more time you give yourself, the easier (both emotionally and physically) a move will be. In fact, from the moment you first start thinking about downsizing, it’s time to take action.
If you’re like most of us, you may have decades worth of stuff packed away in your house. Giving yourself adequate time will allow you to make decisions without feeling the pressure of a looming deadline.
Go Room by Room
Downsizing as a senior is a big project. Break it into chunks by tackling one room at a time. Spend an hour a day working on that room until you’re done. If you feel nervous, start with an easy room like a guest bedroom. If you feel ambitious, go ahead and dive into your office or attic.
Set up a Sorting Table
In each room you work in, set up a folding table and chair, along with all the supplies you need, including boxes, trash bags, packing tape, and markers. You’ll be separating items into four categories: move, donate, keep for family members, or trash.
Preserve Your Precious Memories
Collect all your old photos in one place and then come up with a plan to preserve them without taking up tons of space. Consider choosing your favorites and using a service such as Shutterfly to have memory books made. The rest can be saved digitally or on DVDs or, if there aren’t too many, simply stored in a box.
Hire an Estate Sale Pro or Have a Garage Sale
If you have a lot of larger, high-value items to get rid of, consider hiring someone to help you host an estate sale. Yes, they’ll take a cut of the profits, but they’ll also catalog your items, attract people to your auction, and take care of all the paperwork. If, however, you’re looking just to unload a few old couches, some clothing, and more ordinary items, consider hosting your own garage sale.
Don’t Take the Purging Process Personally
You may have art or antiques you want your children to have. Maybe you’ve been saving favorite books or toys from their childhood to give to them. Despite all your efforts and good intentions, they simply may not want these things.
Instead of assuming that your kids will want anything, ask them first. Don’t be offended if they turn you down. They’re not rejecting you or family memories; they’re simply saying they don’t have a use for those particular items.
Consider Self Storage to Keep Your Belongings Protected
A self storage unit could be the bridge you need to transition into your new home. Maybe you have artwork or collectibles you need time to sell, or maybe you’re just having a hard time parting with certain possessions. If that’s the case, give yourself a deadline of six months or even a year. If you haven’t used something in that time period, you’ll know it’s OK to let it go.
Downsizing takes effort, but the end result is more time—and freedom—to enjoy what’s really important to you.
Updated February 10, 2020